Klose control and Messi magic on show
THE shaky front flip was not vintage Miroslav Klose, but the critical goal that led to it was definitely a classic Klose poach.
Even if he is now an injury-prone, 36-year-old substitute, playing for Germany still brings out the essential man in Klose, and less than two minutes after he trotted onto the field in Fortaleza, Brazil, he smelled an opportunity and pounced.
The far post has been one of his happiest hunting grounds through the years, and after teammate Benedikt Howedes flicked on a Toni Kroos corner kick, Klose was moving towards empty space near the goal line: a half-step and a fully formed thought ahead of the closest Ghana defender.
In a slide and a flash, the deed was done as he extended his right foot and half-volleyed the ball into the net.
It was his first touch of what will certainly be his last World Cup, and it gave Germany the equaliser, salvaging a point and a 2-2 tie that could make life more complicated for the United States. It also gave Klose what he had been chasing in earnest since 2010: a 15th World Cup goal and a share of the career scoring record with Ronaldo, the bullish Brazilian.
Ronaldo handled the news in gracious, wholly modern fashion, tweeting "welcome to the club" to Klose in three languages - English, Portuguese and German. He was most expansive in Portuguese: "I can imagine your happiness."
Ronaldo was the far better year-round striker, a force of nature for both club and country when he was not battling knee injuries. He was also part of two Cup-winning teams: in 1994 and 2002.
But Klose, who has yet to acquire the ultimate soccer bauble with Germany and whose club career has been more unspectacular, has the clear edge in staying power. Ronaldo, still only 37, retired three years ago and is part of the organising committee for this World Cup.
Klose just signed another one-year contract with his Italian club team, Lazio, and happily accepted one more call from one of his biggest fans, Germany's manager, Joachim Loew.
"When he's fit, he is terribly important to my team," Loew told Bild, the German newspaper, before the Cup. "His secret is his professionalism. His strength is his will."
Another star, even more important to his team that Klose is to Germany, also put his stamp on the World Cup.
Lionel Messi spared Argentina the blushes with a wonderful last-gasp winner against unheralded Iran to give the South Americans a 1-0 victory and passage to the last 16.
Argentina's fabled "Fab Four" strike force had appeared to be heading for a blank scoreline despite dominating possession, to the frustration of their massed hordes of fans who came expecting a goalfest at Belo Horizonte's Mineirao stadium.
But four-time world player of the year Messi, who has struggled to reproduce his Barcelona form at past World Cups, curled the ball in during stoppage time to send them wild with his second goal of two games in Brazil.
"With Messi, everything is possible," said relieved Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, praising Iran for playing a "great" game and making it difficult for his side.
Watched by past Argentinian great Diego Maradona in a 57,698-strong crowd, Messi had appeared in an unthreatening position when he received the ball on the right in the 91st minute.
Then dropping his shoulder and cutting quickly inside, he curled a simply brilliant 23m left-foot shot over Iran's massed defence and into the far corner, past outstanding goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi's outstretched hand.
"Not even two goalkeepers could have stopped that Lionel shot," Sabella added.